Must do better is Kieran McGeeney's message for attack
It may be early days in the season but Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney has already laid it on the line to his attack - get more scores!
With his team's second match in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup against Ulster Champions Monaghan looming on Sunday and a demanding itinerary awaiting in Division Two of the Allianz League, McGeeney has expressed serious concerns about his team's finishing powers.
In last Sunday's defeat to Cavan, the orchard county scored just once from play in the first half-hour of the game and although they recorded eight points after the break in a 2-8 to 0-11 setback, a marked lack of invention underlined flaws up front.
The absence of Caolan Rafferty and Jamie Clarke, in particular, is seen as a double-blow for the orchard county in terms of scoring expertise.
Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke, meanwhile, is keen to see his side land what would be a first win of the season after falling to UUJ last Sunday and McGeeney is aware that the reigning Ulster champions are capable of racking up points from all areas of the park.
"There were times against Cavan that you would have thought we had never seen a football before," admits McGeeney. "It was hard to get going but we were much smarter on the ball in the second-half."
In all, Armagh shot 16 wides with scores being missed from relatively easy positions - a statistic that clearly perturbs McGeeney. Nine of the wides came in the second-half and had even a fraction of these chances been taken Armagh could well have won the match.
Instead, they must now go in against Monaghan knowing a marked improvement is needed if they are to have any chance of reaching the McKenna Cup semi-finals.
"We will have to learn how to take our chances. It was a case of low scoring for us again against Cavan. If we are going to continue to get 12 and 13 points that certainly won't be enough to allow us to win matches," adds McGeeney.
"That will very much apply when we meet the other Ulster teams in Division Two of the league. We have to try and expand our attacking play a wee bit more and see if we can put extra scores on the board."
Ethan Rafferty, Stefan Campbell and Gavin McParland will again have key roles in the Armagh attack and while they have shown themselves capable of getting scores, they will now be under more pressure to produce their best form against the Ulster champions.
"It wasn't a great start to the season for us against Cavan but at least the second-half gives us cause for hope. Monaghan will be on their toes and we have to show an improvement," says McGeeney.
Meanwhile, UUJ coach Barney McAleenan will send his side into battle against Cavan in good heart tomorrow night under the Kingspan Breffni Park floodlights following that opening day victory over Monaghan.
The Jordanstown side's pace and finishing skills proved too much for the Farney county but McAleenan is urging his players to keep their feet on the ground.
"One swallow does not make a summer and while I feel we have very capable players in our side, Cavan showed against Armagh that they have a good team spirit going already and I don't think they will be short on confidence," says McAleenan.
Caolan O'Boyle, Niall McKeever, Ryan McHugh, Stephen Sheridan and Michael Argue are key figures in a UUJ side that introduced Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan as a substitute against his own county last Sunday and he responded by landing points from a free and a '45'.
"The big challenge for us as management is to keep the side playing as a cohesive unit. We have to play Armagh in our next game after this tie against Cavan and this means we will have had three big tests in the McKenna Cup.
"But we see these as great preparation for the forthcoming Sigerson Cup," adds McAleenan.